Very Slight Stories | Like short stories, only shorter.

'Darcy and O'Mara' is a novel by Arthur Cronin.
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Tuesday, September 30, 2008


Words and Phrases

   Gary and Luke sat at a bar. "Does your head start to itch when you listen to music?" Luke said.
   "No," Gary said.
   "What about when you hear certain words or phrases?"
   "I don't know. I suppose it would depend on the words and phrases."
   Words and phrases they experimented with: Lorgnette. Long weekends. Some figs. A fake Monet. Mrs. Salty-Duck. That's not her real name. Educe. News fish. Harper and the stick. Get him on the lightning phone.
   They told each other their life stories to find more words and phrases.
   Luke's life story: He was born on a Tuesday and then he was young for a while and then he got married because it seemed like the sensible thing to do at the time but when he was old he started to wonder about the wisdom of his decision. He was old when most of his friends were still young, and he used to be younger than them. He dreamt of becoming young again by becoming a wrestler called Panic Clobbermonk, but it was never more than a dream.
   Gary's life story: He grew up in the countryside and then he got a job in the city and that's when the monsters came, but he was able to shoot most of them. On weekends he went back to the country and he spent a lot of time living in trees because he thought a time would come when all the survivors would have to live in trees to get away from the ground-bound monsters. He fell in love with a woman who shared his political views in relation to monsters. They drove around in an open-top car and they wore dark sunglasses. This was their way of saying 'Don't mess with us', and no one did.
   More words and phrases they considered: Brief cousins. The cat's cabbage. Nineteen centipedes. Samovar. Jam dognuts.
   Their life stories moved on with their lives. These stories contained phrases like 'submultiple bingo', 'sweaty horse' and 'She invited me into her caravan', but they were happy just saying these phrases in the pub, rather than finding practical uses for them.

Tuesday, September 23, 2008


Harry's Bodyguard

   After Harry was beaten up by shadows, someone suggested he go to self-defence classes, so he got tennis lessons from a woman called Brenda, who taught tennis as a martial art.
   Harry was terrified of her. He ran away in the middle of the first lesson, but she followed him. She was determined to track him down and teach him tennis whether he liked it or not. He needed protection, and he thought that Amelia would make the perfect bodyguard. She was so tall she could lean over him and look at his back when she was standing in front of him. He used to pay her to do this.
   He asked her to stand next to him and she agreed, but only if he stood next to her as well. She'd follow him around and occupy the space by his side as long as he spent some time following her around.
   She wanted to go to watch her sister look for her car keys in a field. "She thinks she lost them when she was walking the dog," Amelia said to Harry, "but they're actually in her car."
   They spent two hours looking at her sister in the field. Amelia thought it was hilarious, but Harry was bored. When her sister gave up the search, he took Amelia to another field to watch his friends re-enact a battle between goblins and aliens. She got bored after a few minutes and she started talking about a film she saw when she was six. It was about people who had birds in their heads. This was all she could remember about the film, but she still managed to talk about it for over an hour.
   They needed to find something they both enjoyed. They experimented with lots of different activities. They went roller-blading and they went to pottery classes. They watched a performance by architects who were settling a difference of opinion concerning an aspect of the design of a building they were working on. This was how the performance was advertised on a poster, but it was really just mud-wrestling. Many more people would have attended the performance if it had been advertised as mud-wrestling.
   They finally found an activity they both enjoyed when they realised that they shared an interest in birds. They spent many evenings bird-watching together. He didn't mind when she rambled on about what it would feel like to have birds in your head, and she got used to listening to him talk about how many cabbages you'd have to throw at an orc to make him fall over. Sometimes they noticed Brenda lurking in the shadows, wielding her tennis racket, but she was kept at bay by the presence of Amelia.

Tuesday, September 16, 2008


A Story

   Arnold gets up in the morning and he goes outside.
   Arnold read the above line many times but he couldn't figure out why he was getting funny looks from his neighbours after going outside. He asked me to edit the line, and he changed his behaviour in accordance with the alterations I made. The line became the following paragraph:
   Arnold gets up in the morning and he puts on his clothes. He goes outside.
   This was a powerful example of how one of my stories could have a positive impact on people's lives. Arnold's friend, Charlie, asked me to write a story about him, and I agreed.
   I spent an evening following him around. I told him to act naturally, and to do whatever he'd normally do, but he was obviously conscious that I was writing about him.
   He decided to take this story to the coast. As we looked out over the sea I got the impression that he was doing his best to be dramatic. He said, "An old woman once told me I'd die in the sea. She also said I should stop picking my neck, but I chose to ignore that advice."
   We saw a woman and a man. They had a son and a daughter and a dog, and the dog had a balloon. Charlie told me about his childhood days when he had a dog who had a balloon.
   This story was heading nowhere and he was uncomfortable with its destination. He took me to meet his friend Jason, whose hobby was breaking things with his head. We watched him break a chair, a plank, a clock and a fence. He needed to sit down after breaking the fence, but he ended up on the ground when he tried to sit on the chair.
   We went to the pub. Charlie tried to demonstrate his prowess with women. He said to one woman, "I used to work in a funeral home. I practised my chat-up lines on the corpses. They were never as successful on the living." This chat-up line didn't work either.
   Getting drunk was Charlie's final desperate attempt to take his story somewhere interesting. He ended up getting into a fight with a man who had the words 'loathe' and 'hate' tattooed on his nose. The following is my contribution to Charlie's story, and I hope it will prove just as instructive as my intervention in Arnold's story:
   Charlie avoids getting drunk and saying 'Your ears smell worse than your feet' to a man who once punched a bear.

Tuesday, September 09, 2008



   Maurice collects buttons. He has a story about each one. Thankfully he only has three buttons, so if he shows you his collection you won't have to endure it for longer than an hour.
   One of the stories involves his rowboat, which he keeps in his shed in case he has to use it during a flood. He only had to use it once. He rowed down the street, nodding to the men who looked out at him through windows, doffing his hat to the women (he kept a bowler hat in his wardrobe just in case he ever had to row down his street).
   He met a woman called Donna who was walking barefoot through the flood water, and he asked if she'd like to step into his boat. She accepted his offer, and he rowed her around the neighbourhood. "It's like Venice," she said. "Except Venice probably doesn't have a grocery shop where you can buy a dead crow stuck in a bottle."
   He told her he was fascinated by ships, even though he feared the sea. He was convinced he'd drown if he left dry land. He was always falling down holes on dry land. This would have been enough to convince most people that they might have better luck on the sea, but he clung to his belief that the ocean was a huge hole waiting to swallow him up and spit him out with seaweed. "I enjoy rowing in the flood water," he said. "It's too shallow to drown in."
   "What if you fell overboard and then fell down a hole and drowned," she said.
   He was terrified when he considered this. He was paralysed by the fear. She rowed the boat to her house, which wasn't too far away. Her garden sloped down to the street. Only half of her lawn was under water. She rowed through her front gate, and they stepped out of the boat and onto dry land. She took him inside. She told him he was welcome to wait there until the flood water receded.
   It started raining again, and he knew he'd have to wait until the following day before the water receded. She told him he could spend the night at her house. He was worried about the scandal this would cause, but he was more worried about falling down a hole and drowning, so he agreed to stay.
   They spoke about a lot of things that evening. He told her about his button collection, but he didn't mention that there were only two buttons in it. She gave him the third button when she pulled one off an old teddy bear. The button had been an eye on the bear's face. He noticed that there were pins sticking out of the teddy bear. "This is a voodoo doll of my ex boyfriend," she said. "His name is Byrne. Using a voodoo doll might seem extreme, but it's the only way to convince him that it's over between us. He's still insanely jealous. He hates seeing me spending time with anyone else, even though he knows I'd rather spend an afternoon touching an electric fence than waste another second of my life with him."
   Maurice didn't get much sleep that night because he was afraid of what would happen if Byrne saw his boat parked in her driveway. The water hadn't receded in the morning, but he decided to take a chance and row home anyway.
   As he rowed away from her house he noticed that he was being followed by a man who wore an eye patch. This man was in another boat, and he looked furious. Maurice assumed that this was Byrne. He'd be angry because Maurice had spent the night in Donna's house, or else he'd be angry because of his eye. The only other explanation was that the man with the eye patch was a pirate.
   Maurice didn't put much thought into this at the time. He just rowed for home as quickly as he could. The man with the eye patch couldn't keep up, so he got out of his boat and ran after Maurice, but he hadn't got far before he fell down a hole. The stream of obscenities that followed told Maurice that his pursuer hadn't been consumed by the hole. He didn't look back until he was home and his boat was safely hidden in his shed. The boat has never left the shed since then. Someday he might show it to his grandchildren, after showing them the button and telling them the story of his naval adventure when he was lured by a Siren, chased by pirates and nearly swallowed by whirlpools in the sea.

Tuesday, September 02, 2008


The Woman Eating Crisps

   This story is set in a place that's not too far away from another place. It's about a woman who's eating crisps. She's not too far away from another woman, who's standing on a butterfly. The other woman lets the butterfly go when she remembers that she's supposed to meet someone in the other place. The woman eating crisps only notices that she's all alone when she finishes the crisps. She can hear the sound of the waves, and then she hears the sound of people holding up cards to communicate with each other (they're kicking each other on the shins to attract each other's attention).
   It's getting dark. She goes into a house. She closes the front door behind her. The hall is in darkness. She can still hear the sound of the waves, but she can no longer hear the people. She goes into the living room and she turns on the light. There's someone in the room. She considers the scene before her. She turns the light off and turns it on again, and now there are two people in the room, a man and a woman sitting on chairs at either side of the fireplace. The fire hasn't been lit in months. She thinks about turning the light off and on again, but there's no guarantee that this would have the desired effect. The desired effect is the disappearance of the two people. After considering the problem for a few minutes she decides to turn the light off and leave it off. She leaves the room and goes upstairs to bed.
   When she comes back downstairs in the morning she doesn't need to turn the light on to see that the two people are still there. Turning the light on would be unlikely to make them disappear.
   She thinks about the problem over breakfast. She comes up with the following idea: hiding in the garden shed and pretending she's not at home.
   She hides in the shed for an hour, but when she goes back inside, the people are still there. She tries talking to her dog in the hope that the people will feel as if they're intruding on a private conversation, but this doesn't work either.
   In the afternoon she goes to the shop, and when she comes back the people are gone. She wonders if the hiding was effective after all.
   In the evening she goes outside and eats crisps. She can hear the sound of the waves and of people throwing beans at each other. The woman who had gone to the other place returns. She says there was no one at the other place. The woman eating crisps says, "Why don't I go to the other place this time and you can stay here."

The Tree and the Horse
Henry Seaward-Shannon
A Walk in the Rain
The East Cork Patents Office
Words are my favourite noises




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very slight stories

They Met a Bear
  They stopped in a small seaside town and they went for a walk. They met a bear.
  This is one version of the story. In another version, they met a sailor, and in this one they ended up being held at gunpoint on a speedboat and becoming unwilling participants in a diamond robbery while disguised as a cow, and sharing in the proceeds of that crime.
  So when they tell the story they just say, "We met a bear. He waved at us."

The Story of the Fortune Teller and the Alarm Clock
  A fortune teller threw an alarm clock at me. This story is deliberately lacking in details to mock the predictions of the fortune teller. Although she was right when she said she'd throw an alarm clock at me.

  One. Two. Three, the study. Four, a candle stick. Five. Six...
  Seven is missing, presumed dead. One has taken up the case, and two is helping him in his investigations. They both suspect six. Seven was last seen next to six in the garden.
  But seven isn't really dead. He's consumed half a bottle of whiskey and he's currently in the orchard, talking to a rabbit. "One of us is as boring as a gate post," he says, "and it's not..." He stops to count on his fingers. "No, actually it is me."
  Eight nine ten.

Debbie and his dog
  Debbie was sick of people mistaking her for a man.
  "Is your dog my parole officer?"
  She was sick of people asking her that too.

Very Slight Stories: like short stories, only shorter

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